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Some rich men built a Disneyland of yellow brick,
a place for pious patriarchy.
I got a job there.

They followed a blueprint of pretty-campus,
big oak trees and well-paved paths,
carefully de-iced each winter to protect
against lawsuits.
Every building looked like a church
of corporatology, modern and old elements
stacked together. The prettiest
part was a giant cubist mosaic of
their prophet, angles and colors
and design I could get behind, but
they added football stink to it. Still,
I’d look up at Our Lord and Savior, above the
reflecting pool, to rest my eyes from
the rest of the ugly,
while trekking on paths, crossing little roads
closed to the public, passing the
illegally parked cars of priests, going
to meetings, going to teach the children
of patriarchs (some of whom were fighting
the binds they’d been born into,
taking too literally their elders’
instructions to be good.)

As I walked I’d sweat into my professional
costume, my corporate-lady-drag, worry
about the eyes on me, stew on the latest struggle.
The men trying to make me feel stupid
or afraid. The men
angry about my failure (or success) at
acting the part: corporate-lady or
madonna or matron or witch or whore.
How I fit or didn’t fit in their
Catholic cosmology.
No packaging I could offer placated
them for long, and plastic contaminants
were leaching deep into my skin.

I tried to do what I was nominally
hired to do. I tried to grow knowledge trees
and spread their seeds in yellow brick buildings
under oak trees and watchful eyes
of wizards. But the prettiness of that
campus was a fairy tale and I
was a jarring shard of reality
to be spat out.

You drink what they offer you and become
it, body and blood, and if your body
rejects it, if they don’t see it shining
out your ears and eyeballs, if they
hear you throwing up in a bathroom
stall down the hall, they know you’re a
dangerous agent. They made sure to
expel me. The cathedrals keep on ringing
their death knells, plague cult,
oak trees covered in sick, and I’m
free of all of it, healing slowly in its shadow.

Michelle Wirth (they/them) is a trans, nonbinary, genderqueer writer in Madison, Wisconsin. Michelle was long-listed for the 2021 Penrose Poetry Prize; their poems appear in Oroboro magazine. Their hybrid poetry/art zine, Harm Done, co-created with Detroit-based artist Austin Brady, won Best LitZine and Best Overall Zine in the 2022 Broken Pencil Zine Awards. In addition, Michelle has published TV analysis in The Fandomentals, and—in a distant past—a number of peer-reviewed articles about stress and hormones in scientific journals.
Current Issue
30 Jan 2023

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much.
It is probably impossible to understand how transformative all of this could be unless you have actually been on the receiving end.
Some of our reviewers offer recollections of Maureen Kincaid Speller.
Criticism was equally an extension of Maureen’s generosity. She not only made space for the text, listening and responding to its own otherness, but she also made space for her readers. Each review was an invitation, a gift to inquire further, to think more deeply and more sensitively about what it is we do when we read.
When I first told Maureen Kincaid Speller that A Closed and Common Orbit was among my favourite current works of science fiction she did not agree with me. Five years later, I'm trying to work out how I came to that perspective myself.
Cloud Atlas can be expressed as ABC[P]YZY[P]CBA. The Actual Star , however, would be depicted as A[P]ZA[P]ZA[P]Z (and so on).
In the vast traditions that inspire SF worldbuilding, what will be reclaimed and reinvented, and what will be discarded? How do narratives on the periphery speak to and interact with each other in their local contexts, rather than in opposition to the dominant structures of white Western hegemonic culture? What dynamics and possibilities are revealed in the repositioning of these narratives?
a ghostly airship / sorting and discarding to a pattern that isn’t available to those who are part of it / now attempting to deal with the utterly unknowable
Most likely you’d have questioned the premise, / done it well and kindly then moved on
In this special episode of Critical Friends, the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, reviews editors Aisha Subramanian and Dan Hartland introduce audio from a 2018 recording for Jonah Sutton-Morse’s podcast Cabbages and Kings which included Maureen Kincaid Speller discussing with Aisha and Jonah three books: Everfair by Nisi Shawl, Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan, and The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar.
Issue 23 Jan 2023
Issue 16 Jan 2023
Issue 9 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
2 Jan 2023
Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
Issue 2 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
Issue 19 Dec 2022
Issue 12 Dec 2022
Issue 5 Dec 2022
Issue 28 Nov 2022
By: RiverFlow
Translated by: Emily Jin
Issue 21 Nov 2022
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